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Old 28-12-2009, 10:07   #1
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Are You Scared of Wood ?

Many people follow my threads on the restoration of Oh Joy it seems. Most just read them and go on, either because they don't know enough to comment or don't see anything to comment on. Some comment about how HUGE the project is and that they are amazed by the undertaking.

Why is that? Now that I've dug into the old girl I'm finding that repairing and restoring this fine old wooden yacht is really quite simple. Folks who own fiberglass boats in particular are usually intimidated by the thought. They don't think anything of stripping the skin off the deck of a glass boat to repair a section of rotten core or cutting out a section of busted glass and repairing it so why would they find a wood boat so intimidating?

I think it's a matter of perspective. As I've gotten into the bones of this old boat, I've discovered that EVERYTHING is repairable or replaceable. Nothing on a wood boat cannot be repaired or replaced. A wooden yacht is just a collection of a thousand little jobs done right, to borrow a phrase. Each component can be taken apart and fixed. Granted, some parts are buried and you have to peel the connecting parts away like the layers of an onion but given enough time, it can be done.

Oh Joy is even more complicated because of the C-Flex sheathing. When doing a rib replacement, I can't just pop the bungs, remove the fasteners and replace the rib like on a true wood boat. I have to carefully cut and peel away a strip of the C-Flex , pop the bungs, remove the fasteners, replace the rib, refasten and then reglass. Everything else is fairly simple. Just don't forget how and where something went. Typically, you can't do that because there are several installations of whatever it is you pulled off right next to it.

Could I do the same with a plastic boat? Maybe... I'm sure I could figure it out. Would I enjoy it as much? Probably not. I hate fiberglass work.

I like working with wood. It's forgiving and it does not care how many times you repair or scarph in a new section or piece. Can the same be said of a section of glass, kevlar or carbon? I don't have to worry about delamination with the exception of the C-Flex and that has proven to be blister and delamination free for 16 years now so I guess I'm safe there.

What about maintenance? When Oh Joy is complete, the only maintenance will be the normal wear and tear a boat has plus the brightwork. Rot? Wood rots. If it's exposed to nature, yes. if it's sealed and cared for properly then no. Part of this restoration is to insure the areas of rot I ran across (mostly caused by really poor repairs) don't come back. Black Locust doesn't rot. You can stick it in the ground for over 100 years and it'll look new when ya pull it. Bugs don't like it and it has all of the qualities you want from a piece of wood for building boats. That's why I'm replacing any marginal wood structural members with it. Also, modern sealants such as Sanitred, which adhere at the molecular level, which are waterproof and UV proof will keep the enemy (fresh water) from the wood.

So, back to the maintenance issue. Varnish, plenty of it too. If properly applied, varnish, when refreshed with a couple of annual coats, will last up to 10 years. Stripping the brightwork of varnish or "wooding" CAN SOUND INTIMIDATING BUT IT'S REALLY NOT THAT HARD. It is time consuming but it only has to happen once a decade if you do it right and perform some simple maintenance. Planking? Planking is an issue with a traditional wood boat but not so with my girl. the planks don't see any water nor are they free to move around and work loose because of the C-Flex. Planks really aren't that hard to replace on a wooden boat either so that wouldn't scare me, not anymore.

So is there really maintenance in a wooden boat than a glass one? Not really. It's a matter of perception. Is there a difference in the lifespan between the two? That depends on the luck of the boat. If a wood boat has owners that care then no, it will last longer than a plastic boat because it won't experience delamination, crazing or general breakdown like glass will. Fiberglass does not last forever in a seaworthy form. It can only take a finite amount of flexing and stress before it starts breaking down. Can you fix it? Yes but how do you do that? Don't ask me. Will a glass boat take neglect better than a wooden one? You betcha. Wood boats that are ignored for long periods of time tend to fare far worse than their plastic counterparts.

So it's a trade off. A decently maintained wood boat will last forever, provided a piece here and there is repaired or replaced as needed. I don't know if the same can be said about a plastic boat because they really haven't been around long enough to say. There is a difference in the way the two materials sail though. Wooden yachts are quieter and just feel more solid than glass. I've sailed on both and the difference is undeniable.

What stops folks from owning a wooden boat? Pre-conceptions usually. They hear about how much maintenance is involved from folks who either bought a boat in poor condition or who've never even OWNED a wooden boat. Wooden boats are out there in all shapes, sizes and prices. To me, it's the cheapest way to get into a good boat. If you're intimidated by the prospect of fixing or maintaining one because you don't think you have the skills to do so, read the internet. Go to the WBF. I didn't know much of anything about wooden yacht s when I bought Oh Joy and started this project. I had some mechanical ability and a bit of wood working experience but nothing spectacular. I learned on the job, one little piece at a time. That's all a wooden boat is. A bunch of little pieces tied together. Nothing to be intimidated by at all.

So if you are wanting a sailing or motor yacht and like me, can't afford the latest and greatest, think about wood. Wood boats ask for your time and love and what better way to spend some spare time than on your boat...
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Old 28-12-2009, 10:35   #2
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I believe you have the main items that keep people away from wood boats:
- The unknown. We see all too many HGTV home shows where the owner tried to do a good job and then bad things happened. Most people still feel better knowing a mistake in their home is unlikely to kill them or at the very least, the guy at Home Depot may ask why you are running 220 line (US here) through the entire house.
- Unknown II. We know there are 1000 places you cannot see on a boat, but you hope that the glass is transmitting issues to where you can. Wood has the illusion of hiding issues (infestation, water absorption, etc.). True or not.
- Fiberglass appears forgiving. While many people want to be good stewards of their boats, life often gets in the way. So, that minor issue you let linger a couple of months longer than you should have is going to have less affect on your life than a wood boat. That someone will find examples where "bad" is just as "bad" in both, the perception is still there.
- Skills required - Fiberglass: home tree mechanic, Wood: Cabinet maker

Most of us plastic owners look again to HGTV or PBS and while we love to watch "This Old House" we fear ever owning one. While there are brave souls willing to undertake the renovation necessary, most of us find the joy in the use and care rather than the renovation of. Bless anyone that has the desire to resurrect the beauty that is found in any old boat.
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Old 28-12-2009, 10:40   #3
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What a great description Charlie.

Its a wonderful thing that we have wood boats. The most beautiful fiberglass boats are nowhere near as beautiful as the most beautiful wood boats.

The way our society is now is that time is a precious commodity. Some people have the time and the money to maintain a wood boat but most do not have that precious time, and many do not have the money. As Keffa just said, some of us are "This Old House" and others have very little ability to work with their hands.

So like most all things in this world, it comes down to time, money and skills.

Given everything else is equal, wood boats do require more time, money and certainly a lot more skill. That's just one of those differences between the two different breeds. This though does make one better than the other. Whats best is which boat best suits the individual.
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Old 28-12-2009, 10:40   #4
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Originally Posted by CharlieCobra View Post
......Could I do the same with a plastic boat? Maybe... I'm sure I could figure it out. Would I enjoy it as much? Probably not. I hate fiberglass work...... I like working with wood......I don't have to worry about delamination with the exception of the C-Flex and that has proven to be blister and delamination free for 16 years now so I guess I'm safe there.......So, back to the maintenance issue. Varnish, plenty of it too. If properly applied, varnish, when refreshed with a couple of annual coats, will last up to 10 years..........So is there really maintenance in a wooden boat than a glass one?...........
All you say is true, but there is more to consider. You are sailing (or is it working?) in the Pacific Northwest. At around 30 degrees latitude and south we have clams that have evolved to use their bivalve shells like teeth and bore through wood (toredo worms). You say you like working with wood and properly applying varnish. Many of us rather be cruising than working on the boat. How many weeks of the year is your boat out of the water? I'm hauled out for maintenance on the average of two weeks every three years. I did repair a delaminated rudder in 1996. That's the only fiberglass repair I've had under the waterline since buying my first liveaboard fiberglass boat in 1971. I have removed the teak toe rails on my 37 year old Morgan and epoxied all the fastener holes. This left me with a largely maintenance free exterior. I still work on my boat. I'm currently removing, inspecting and refinishing my chainplates. We cruised back to Florida from Maine for the winter and in March we're off again for the Bahamas. For many of us, function defines beauty; therefore, my fiberglass boat that simulates a bleach bottle is beautiful. I do appreciate the beauty of a wood boat and 'would hope to have a picture of a boat like yours mounted in a plastic frame fastened to my plastic laminate bulkhead. 'take care and joy, Aythya crew
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Old 28-12-2009, 10:42   #5
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Been there.

From 1981-1984 I owned a Mason 30. Designed by Al Mason and built by the Vaugn Brothers in San Pedro Calif in 1957.
An absolutely gorgeous fractional rig cutter. African Mahogony on oak frames fastened with silicon bronze. Looked like a big FOLKBOAT. Sailed great and really turned heads as she was in pristine condition. She was the winner in class of the 1959 Newport-Ensanada race.
I absolutely loved this boat and it showed. I would estimate that I spent a good 40-50 hours a month working on her compared to the 10-20 hours a month sailing her.
I had 4 or 5 buddies back then who all owned wooden boats. We were probably the biggest boat-snobs ever to be born. After a days work on our respective boats we would all get together on the dock and drink beer all the while critsizing the idiots sailing back into the harbor in their "plastic-shower stall-souless-toy boats".
Well, I am 60 years old now and I sail on average 40-50 hours a month (and full time cruise June -October) and work on my boat an average of 10-20 hours a month.
There are a few young fellows on my dock with wooden boats. I really like them all. I can relate. I don't talk about my experience, but I love to listen.
Like me, at their age, they know everything there is to know and aren't shy about spreading the knowlege.
I sail in and out of the harbor and watch them move from one project to the next. Doesn't bother me... I know where I stand.

Am I afraid of wood? Most definately! I am afraid that it would cost me precious sailing time!
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Old 28-12-2009, 10:49   #6
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Im certainly not afraid of wood, and like other materials and technologies, its a case of having to understand and have an affinity in order to survive.
When I was a kid and living at home, we had a good standard of living and I took it for granted but when i left home I found i couldnt afford many things and that was my cue to start learning.
Many people treat plumbing, electrics, woodwook, GRP etc as though it were witchcraft, but a little research or better still, practical education is all thats needed for a person with aptitude to become skilled
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Old 28-12-2009, 10:50   #7
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PS: Charlie Cobra is absolutely correct about the difference in the feel between wood and plastic. I lived aboard my wooden boat and it always felt warm and dry. Smelled good too. If I could afford to pay for maintinence I would buy a wooden boat in a heartbeat.
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Old 28-12-2009, 11:01   #8
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I'm only afraid of pre-owned wood. But I have the same fear about steel.
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Old 28-12-2009, 11:06   #9
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I can understand not wanting to maintain the boat but to sail it more instead. My position is probably unique in the fact that I'll know exactly what I have, am using wood that won't rot and will seal it all up using methods that will limit water incursion and the rot that follows. I'm really anal in the fact that if I see something, I fix it, hence the refit turned into restoration. I'm hoping that this will translate into less maintenance than normal for a wooden boat and more sailing. I reckon we'll see.

Capt Force. One of the main reasons that Oh Joy was C-Flexed was the concern for toredo worms. They can't eat what they can't get to. Don't get me wrong. As I said in another thread, I would've bought a plastic boat IF I had been able to afford it. Considering I paid about $700.00 USD for Oh Joy including the back slip fees, I couldn't pass her up. I got more than my money's worth before the engine blew in sailing time. I figure that even when I'm done and have about 25K in the boat including yard fees, I'll be way ahead of the curve.
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Old 28-12-2009, 11:42   #10
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I'm scared of wood.

I've sailed on wood boats and love just about everything about them (the look, the feel, the sounds, the smells). However, I'm not rich, nor am I a craftsman. I'm ignorant about wood types and woodworking in general. I feel that in my ignorant state, I'm highly likely to make a purchasing mistake (even with a survey I probably wouldn't understand or be able to judge the veracity of). I'm also busy, and won't afford the time to learn properly about wood.

With fiberglass production boats, I'm also fairly ignorant, but I can at least browse owners groups on the web, and with a minimum of effort make an educated guess about what I'd be getting into.
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Old 28-12-2009, 11:44   #11
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It certainly isn't for everybody, that's for sure.
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Old 28-12-2009, 12:19   #12
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I'm only afraid of pre-owned wood...


Ditto... have had a few wood boats over the years and most of the "problems" were things passed on to me by previous owners... on the otherhand, modern wood construction seems to be able to tollerate spotty upkeep (neglect) almost as well as glass, so...
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Old 28-12-2009, 12:26   #13
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I absolutely loved this boat and it showed. I would estimate that I spent a good 40-50 hours a month working on her compared to the 10-20 hours a month sailing her.
Can you tell me what you did for 40-50 hours per month? Was it just varnish, paint or something I am missing. I hear that wood boats take more maintenance but can't quite figure out what is that much different. Many fiberglass boats have teak decks and teak trim that requires maintenance. Others have topside paint that needs refurbishing and all of them have the same problems with antifouling, etc on the bottom. Is this the type thing everyone is talking about or is there something that is specific to a wood hull that takes more time?

Jim
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Old 28-12-2009, 12:38   #14
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Charlie,

YOU ARE IN LOVE
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Old 28-12-2009, 12:46   #15
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Im not afraid of monogamy.
Its all a question of finding the right kind of wood.
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